How much does school matter for an alum?

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Anonymous User
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How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:01 pm

Apologies if this has been asked already, and I'm sorry if a portion of this sounds braggy but I want to paint the full picture.

I'm currently in the first year of a two-year federal district court clerkship (not in what would be considered a "coveted" district). I sent out a string of apps to COA judges in November for 2015-16 to hopefully line something up for when this clerkship ends.

My issue is this: the law school I went to is consistently ranked between 65-100. I went there partially for money, partially because my undergrad grades were mediocre but my LSAT was strong.

While there I was EIC of law review, graduated magna cum laude (roughly around top 5%), got a biglaw offer, was a semi-finalist in our moot court competition, did RA and TA work, won a handful of awards for writing and oral advocacy, and landed this district court clerkship. My letters of rec are solid and my judge will act as a reference.

My question is, how much will the fact that I didn't go to a top school matter in light of my current clerkship and my prior accomplishments? Will I be automatically dinged because I did not go to H/Y/S or schools that are local to the area where I'm applying? Essentially, will my attending a non-T-14 school be the scarlet letter on my applications for the rest of my life?

Any insight is appreciated and brutal honesty is welcomed. Thanks!

Citizen Genet
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Citizen Genet » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:39 pm

Going to vary a ton across judges. There is no standard. For feeder judges, you'll almost certainly be out absent a very solid connection or something very interesting (military experience would the most common "very interesting" plus factor that I have seen.)

Outside of that, it will just vary wildly. There are definitely some circuit judges out there who would at least interview you, but you're biggest challenge will be getting out of the stack somehow. Look for any connection you have to make to a chambers and think about people who could go to bat for you like a former professor. Talk to your judge to see if she or he has had former clerks go to the circuit level and talk to them. (Definitely talk to your judge about it period. She or he might offer to help make connections, though by no means is that typical.)

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 12, 2013 6:58 pm

I have similar stats to you (similar grades, similarly ranked school, similar accomplishments). I landed a Fed Coa clerkship with a judge in my city after law school. After the clerkship and a year of practice I sent out some resumes to somewhat coveted (D. Colorado, W.D. Wash.) to very coveted (SDNY, CDCA, DDC) fed d. ct. clerkships, and I had no luck at all. You might be competitive with local judges and with judges that know the previous judge you clerked for, but the school keeps doors closed for sure.

I had reasons for going to the school I did, and I'm generally happy with my choice, but part of the give and take of that choice was that I miss out on some great jobs that I might have otherwise landed.

lolwat
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby lolwat » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:22 pm

School still matters a ton. There is variance among judges with this just as everything else but school is definitely one of the things that judges tend to look at when making cuts.

Your judge probably knows some COA judges, and that might be the best way to get your foot in the door. Calls from people that the COA judge knows. That type of stuffs.

Also, I no longer know what the status of OSCAR apps and judges that require it vs accepting paper applications, etc..., but send as many paper applications as you can... I think besides personal connections and phone calls, that will be the best way to get past being just another "name - school - rank" on a spreadsheet to get cut. After all, a 5-second glance of your cover letter or resume will reveal all of the stuff that kind of "makes up" for your school. The app might very well still get trashed because of your school, but hey, at least they saw the other stuff.

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:28 pm

OP here.

Thanks for all this. I've sent all paper apps and tried using my judge but he knows no one in the circuit where I'm applying (it's not 2d, 9th, DC). Only one of the judges in the target circuit is considered a feeder judge, who I would love to work for but it's extremely unlikely.

I just need to get in the door.

lolwat
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby lolwat » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:36 pm

The answer is probably obviously yes, but is there a reason you're only applying in that circuit? Or, probably a better question would be, is there a reason why you're not applying in the circuit where your judge probably does know COA judges?

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Thu Dec 12, 2013 7:38 pm

lolwat wrote:The answer is probably obviously yes, but is there a reason you're only applying in that circuit? Or, probably a better question would be, is there a reason why you're not applying in the circuit where your judge probably does know COA judges?


Significant other and I are trying to relocate to a certain area to be closer to family. Obviously, this greatly limits my chances as opposed to a wholesale application across all circuits (where I do think I would at least scrape one or two interviews).

lolwat
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby lolwat » Thu Dec 12, 2013 8:09 pm

Well that makes sense. Unfortunately this does mean you're stuck trying to figure out some way of getting your foot in the door. As Citizen Genet said, look for any connection you have. Former professors, former(/current) law clerks, pretty much anything.

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Doorkeeper
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Doorkeeper » Thu Dec 12, 2013 10:46 pm

Anonymous User wrote:OP here.

Thanks for all this. I've sent all paper apps and tried using my judge but he knows no one in the circuit where I'm applying (it's not 2d, 9th, DC). Only one of the judges in the target circuit is considered a feeder judge, who I would love to work for but it's extremely unlikely.

I just need to get in the door.

Have you asked any of the professors that you're close with for help regarding judges? Have any of them clerked for judges in that circuit?

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 13, 2013 8:49 am

Doorkeeper wrote:
Anonymous User wrote:OP here.

Thanks for all this. I've sent all paper apps and tried using my judge but he knows no one in the circuit where I'm applying (it's not 2d, 9th, DC). Only one of the judges in the target circuit is considered a feeder judge, who I would love to work for but it's extremely unlikely.

I just need to get in the door.

Have you asked any of the professors that you're close with for help regarding judges? Have any of them clerked for judges in that circuit?


I have, and no one has clerked for judges there. My school is located in a completely different region of the country, and at this point my only thing to stand on are my stats alone, hence my level of concern.

I was considering having professors or perhaps the dean of the law school cold call the judge even though they don't know them and put in a word, but I'm not sure how effective that would be since there is no existing relationship.

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 13, 2013 2:44 pm

Good luck. I clerked for the 9th Circuit, and I looked at the clerk bios and every single clerk fell into one of the following categories:

(1) top 15 law school (vast majority)

(2) law school in the same city as the chambers of the judge they clerked for (next most common)

(3) went to same undergrad or law school of judge they clerked for (vast minority)

The exact same pattern applied for alumni applicants. There's no reason not to try, and go all out in trying (e.g., having your dean and judge call every judge you apply to), but don't plan on it coming through because the odds are not in your favor.

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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby Anonymous User » Fri Dec 13, 2013 6:02 pm

You might get off the pile for the COA judge for whom I'm clerking (think non-feeder COA judge in flyover country). S/he likes good grades (even at lower-ranked schools) and D. Ct. clerkship experience. It doesn't hurt that you were the EIC of your law review, either. Your best bet is to lean hard on any connections you may have to a particular judge and/or city.

lolwat
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Re: How much does school matter for an alum?

Postby lolwat » Fri Dec 13, 2013 11:07 pm

Anonymous User wrote:I was considering having professors or perhaps the dean of the law school cold call the judge even though they don't know them and put in a word, but I'm not sure how effective that would be since there is no existing relationship.


Better than nothing.




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